Commission mulls intervention at charity ‘no longer fulfilling charitable purposes’

22 May 2024 News

Charity Commission building and logo

Civil Society Media

The Charity Commission is considering whether to intervene at a Welsh charity that is, according to two politicians, “no longer fulfilling charitable purposes”.

Last week, Labour MP Gerald Jones and the Welsh government’s social care minister Dawn Bowden wrote to the Commission, urging it to investigate alleged failings of the Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust. 

They said that “serious governance issues” at the charity have “jeopardised important and historic community assets”.

Jones also recently asked the House of Commons if there could be a debate on “what more can be done to bring this faceless and seemingly remote organisation to account”.

Separately, the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) has defended itself after Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones urged the government to look into its “woeful and appalling operation”. 

Public benefit of leisure charity questioned

Jones and Bowden’s letter reads: “It’s our view that this charity is no longer fulfilling its charitable purposes and that there are serious governance issues that have jeopardised important and historic community assets.

“This is causing considerable worry in the communities we represent.

“Regrettably, the available evidence suggests that Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust is a failed charity. It no longer appears to provide a public benefit.

“As such, the Charity Commission must urgently intervene and investigate.”

The letter alleges several “failures” at the charity including unpaid staff, an inability to retain trustees and accruing liabilities that cannot be transferred to other organisations.

It also accuses the charity of failing to meet its aims or purposes and responding to communication with locally elected representatives. 

“Sadly, there may be other issues that emerge once due diligence is complete and there is sight of updated accounts and records,” it reads.

“The most recent issue mirrors the trust’s inability to deal with the community, local authority, or its staff when another of their assets: Aberfan & Merthyr Vale Community Centre, for which the trustees are still responsible. 

“This community centre was funded in the aftermath of the 1966 Aberfan disaster and is a place of considerable importance, both locally and globally.”

According to the Charity Commission’s website, Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust’s accounts for the year ending 31 March 2023 are overdue by 112 days.  

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We’re aware of potential concerns at Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust, including those raised on social media. 

“We’re assessing information to determine if there is a role for the Commission.”

Merthyr Tydfil Leisure Trust did not respond to a request for comment.

CISWO responds to ‘woeful and appalling operation’ accusation

In a separate parliamentary debate, Davies-Jones shared concerns about CISWO, which she said was set up under the Miners Welfare Act 1952 “to support assets following the closure of our mines”, and gained charitable status in 1995.

“The assets – our miners’ welfare hall, playing fields, facilities and village halls – were paid for by the miners and bestowed in trust to that organisation,” she said.

“Sadly, so many members in this place have shared frustration about the woeful and appalling operation, management and engagement of the charity. 

“I urge the minister to look into this as a matter of urgency and to talk to the charities minister about what can be done. Enough is enough. We need direct action about exactly what is happening in our communities as a result of this charity’s actions.”

In response, housing minister Lee Rowley said that “at times, CISWO doesn’t discharge what we all hope it would do”.

“I shall certainly pass that back to my colleagues in the relevant department,” he said.

“I agree with most members who said that there is more to do.”

CISWO’s chief executive Nicola Didlock told Civil Society: “It’s disappointing to hear these comments, which show a fundamental lack of understanding of how CISWO operates and how and why it was formed.

“We have met with Davies-Jones and the APPG on Coalfield Communities to help them gain a better understanding and show how we’re making a positive impact in communities across Britain.

“We have suggested a further meeting in the near future to discuss issues again. We welcome any dialogue around how we can redress central and local government investment and support for miners’ welfare charities, that has been sadly lacking for many years.

“Each miners’ welfare charity is an independent organisation with its own trustees and not governed or operationally managed by CISWO.

“We do, however, provide extensive support to help these charities remain sustainable and we’re very pleased to see more than 220 of these charities still operational today, many years after the demise of the deep coal mining industry.”

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